By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
My theme is put as a question: Does God expect all of us to read the King James Version of the Bible? (For those not very familiar with Bible translations, the King James Version is also known as the KJV, the King James Bible, and as the Authorised Version.) My question uses the word “us.” “Does God expect all of us to read the King James Version?” By “us,” I mean those who read English. As most of us know, much of the world’s population reads and speaks Engllsh, even if it is not their mother tongue.
Now, back to my question: “Does God expect all of us to read the King James Version?” It is becoming increasingly common for Christians to answer the question in the affirmative. They would answer the question this way: “Yes, God expects the English-speaking world to read the King James Version.” Here is the reason they think this way: they believe that only the King James Version is, as they put it, “God’s preserved Word for the English-speaking world.” Now, if that is true, it is only logical that they would believe God expects all of us who read English to read the King James Version. This is not to imply that these persons would say another translation cannot be read. But these persons would say that only the King james Version can be read as the inspired, inerrant, infallible, and preserved Word of God. They would say that, since God expects us to read his Word, he expects us to read the King James Version.
Here are some things to think about concerning the opinion that God expects all of us to read the King James Version . First, it is an opinion that was rarely, if ever, held until recent years. I have read many doctrinal statements of churches and Christian organizations. Some of these doctrinal statements go back a long time, even hundreds of years. But only in recent years have I begun to come across this position in a doctrinal statement. Second, the translators of the King James Version did not think their translation was exclusively God’s preserved Word for the English-speaking world. I have carefully read, and have done so a few times, an important document found in the front of the 1611 King James Version. It is called, “The Translators To The Reader.” Those admirable translators did not say their translation was God’s preserved Word for the English-speaking world. They also said no Bible translation, including their own, was perfect. They even said a translation does not have to be perfect to be the Word of God. Third, many of those who hold this rare view of the King James Version do so because they think it has been translated exclusively from the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Old Testament, and the Textus Receptus (Received Text) of the New Testament. Because they think these texts in the original languages are the only reliable ones, and because they think the King James Version is based only on them, they conclude that the King James Version is the only absolutely reliable English Bible translation. That is why they think it is “God’s preserved Word for the English-speaking world.” But they are mistaken about the texts from which the King James Version was translated. Even E. F. Hills, a strong advocate of the King James Version, and one who might appropriately be called a moderate “King James Version-onlyist,” pointed out that the KJV’s translators did not always follow the Hebrew Masoretic Old Testament or the Greek Received Text. I have carefully read his book called, “The King James Version Defended,” in which he pointed out that the KJV’s translators did not always follow these texts. He so clearly dealt with this subject that it makes me wonder how KJV-onlyists can recommend his book. To read my posting in which I quote extensively from E. F. Hills, it is titled, “The King James Version And The Texts Upon Which It is Based.” Fourth, those who believe the King James Version is “God’s preserved Word for the English-speaking world,” seem unaware of the fact that there have been word changes, not just spelling changes, in this translation since it was first published in 1611. I know some are unaware of this fact, but it seems many other KJV-onlyists ignore it. To face it means they must answer a valid question: Which edition of King James Version is, as they put it, “God’s preserved Word for the English-speaking world”? In other words, which words of the King James Version are “God’s preserved Word for the English-speaking world”? The question is a valid one, even if there is only one word difference between the 1611 KJV and another one. But the fact is, there are many word differences between the 1611 edition and ones now in use. And I am referring only to editions that say “KIng James Version” on them.
Here are a few examples of how the 1611 KJV differs from later editions: My 1611 edition says in Matthew 16:16, “Thou art Christ,” but another KJV says, “Thou art the Christ.” My 1611 edition says in Luke 1:3, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of things from the very first,” but another KJV says, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first,” ” My 1611 edition says in 1 Corinthians 12;28, “helps in governments,” but another KJV says, “helps, governments.” My 1611 edition says in 1 Timothy 1:4, “rather than edifying,” but another KJV says, “rather than godly edifying.” My 1611 edition says in 1 John 5:12, “he that hath not the Son, hath not life,” but another KJV says, “he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” My 1611 edition says in Jude 25, “To the onely wise God our Saviour, be glory and maiestie, dominion and power, now and euer. Amen,” but another KJV says, “To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” In Jude 25, the significant change is in wording, not in spelling.
What follows is a quote from an old book that could be classified as KJV-only. The book is called, “Translators Revived,” and was written by Alexander McClure. My copy says it is from the 1858 edition. It has a foreword and update by R. E. Rhoades. I have carefully read this book. It is very strongly pro-King James Version, and the author presented many interesting facts, some of which apply to the subject of this posting. Here is the quote, taken from the book’s “Conclusion.” It says, “Among so many reprints of the Bible, and in so many different offices, ,it would have been a mass of miracles had not many inaccuracies crept in through error and oversight on the part of printers and correctors of the press. As this is a point on which every reader of the Bible must feel some anxiety, it may be well to make the following statement. A very able committee of the American Bible Society, spent some three years in a diligent and laborious comparison of recent copies of the best edition of the American Bible Society, and of the four leading editions, namely those of London, Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh, and also of the original edition of 1611. The number of variations in the text and punctuations of these six copies was found to fall but little short of twenty-four thousand. A vast amount! Quite enough to frighten us, till we read the committee’s assurance, that ‘of all this great number, there is not one which mars the integrity of the text, or affects any doctrine or precept of the Bible.’ As this, however, is a point in which the minutest accuracy is to be sought, that Committee have prepared an edition wherein these variations are set right, to serve as standard copy for the Society to print by in the future.” (Italics are used in the book quoted.)
If the King James Version is “God’s preserved Word for the English-speaking world,” we need to find out which edition we should read.
For your information, I preach and teach from the New King James Version and the King James Version. But I also read and quote other translations.